Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New life in the old press

The press is complete.

For the first time in... well, who knows how long... there are no pieces missing.

Thanks to Briar Press (where I found the parts) and Nathan's Dad (who fitted said parts), my 1902 Chandler & Price Old Style now runs like a dream.

The dramatically and dangerously worn lower roller saddles are gone, replaced with intact – and original – saddles and springs (below).

The lower bail, missing since long before I owned the press, has been replaced with an original bail from a parts press.

The 14-inch pulley, which previously had the press running at an alarming 18 impressions per minute, has been replaced with a 7-inch pulley plus a new A-belt. The press now gives a perfect 10 impressions per minute – much safer for my fingers and my jumpy nerves.

I actually sat down and did maths to figure out what size pulley we'd need to reduce the press speed enough to produce the desired number of impressions per minute. I mention this to illustrate my abiding devotion to this letterpress – mathematics and I are deeply suspicious of each other, and prefer not to mingle.

A final and wonderful touch: a really pretty hardwood platform for me to stand on while I'm working. My press is mounted on a platform seven inches high, which makes it very (well, comparatively) easy to move around using a pallet jack, but too high for me to operate. For a six-foot-two man it would be perfect. For five-foot-six me, the hardwood platform makes it perfect. Believe it or not, Dad didn't custom-build it for me. He built it as an absurdly attractive base for a dryer, but it didn't work out. When he brought it down from Dallas and put it next to the press, it was an exact fit. I can't believe my luck.

Of course, now that everything's peachy with the press, I've had no time to print. My very first photopolymer plate arrived today to great fanfare (from me), and even that is going to have to wait.

But when I find myself with three baby-free hours, believe me – I'm ready.

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